‘Building back better with apprenticeships’ was the theme of this year’s FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference. On 21 and 22 March 2022, a wide variety of individuals and organisations came to the ICC in Birmingham to benefit from the range of workshops, keynote speeches and networking opportunities centred around apprenticeships.
BIIAB was no exception, being an awarding and End-Point Assessment Organisation of choice for several sectors. We exhibited at the conference and sponsored the gala drinks reception at the awards evening on 22 March.
But what did we learn from the event? Here are a few things we took away from the conference.
Apprenticeships are for all ages
The conference began with a keynote speech from Minister for Skills Alex Burghart MP, who provided an update from the government on progress made with apprenticeships.
The Minister said that university is no longer the be all and end all for school leavers, as evidenced by 100,000 under 21-year-olds going into apprenticeships this year. It is important to remember, though, that apprenticeships are not just for young people, but for learners of all ages. As Minister Burghart noted, apprenticeships can be used to kickstart careers, help adults return to work after career breaks, and enable people to explore new options. He also gave a personal example of meeting a 79-year-old apprentice, showing that it’s never too late to do an apprenticeship.
Attitudes are changing
With apprenticeships being a key part of the government’s skills agenda, and more and more organisations raising awareness of apprenticeships, attitudes towards apprenticeships from young people and parents are changing for the better.
The second plenary session on Day One featured a keynote update by Rachel Sylvester from the Times Education Commission. Rachel shared several statistics that demonstrate how parents are increasingly viewing an apprenticeship as the preferred route for their children over the traditional pathway of going to university. For example, 42% of people now think an apprenticeship better prepares a young person for the future than a university degree, with only 6% thinking a university degree is the better option.
Apprenticeships can strengthen the education system
Rachel’s presentation also highlighted dissatisfaction with the current state of the education system. 58% of parents believe the education system does not prepare children for work, while only 50% of businesses feel secondary education provides the skills for work.
Apprenticeships are designed to prepare learners to enter specific job roles, so can help to change this. Minister Burghart noted that the economy is hungry for skills, and that apprenticeships can help employers to nurture their own talent. He spoke about the government’s aim to make apprenticeships as flexible as possible, creating an employer-led system for success. With £7.7 billion spent on apprenticeships by the government, and uptake in apprenticeships being 34% higher than last year, things are moving in the right direction.
Furthermore, Peter Mucklow (Director of Apprenticeships, Department of Education) mentioned in his keynote update that apprenticeship take-up levels are now returning to pre-pandemic levels. He also spoke about the importance of tailoring apprenticeship journeys to learners’ prior knowledge and skills.
Apprentices and apprenticeships deserve to be celebrated
A common theme running through the conference and awards was the desire to raise the profile of apprenticeships and make more people aware of their benefits. The awards evening certainly did this, providing a fitting celebration of apprenticeship excellence. This year, there were a record-breaking 370 awards entries, from which judges selected 24 award winners and 12 highly commended recipients.
The categories included awards for diversity in apprenticeships, SEND apprenticeships, and campaigns that promote apprenticeships, along with 15 sector-specific awards. You can find the full list of winners here.
Reflecting on the conference and awards, Richard Ward FIH MBII (Product Development Manager, BIIAB) said: “The conference offered a tremendous opportunity to meet and discuss the fantastic achievements of the past year within apprenticeship provision and to celebrate the excellent work of providers and End-Point Assessment Organisations in driving learning opportunity for all.
“The gala dinner was a sparkling celebration of the value of apprenticeships and a great showcase of the talent delivering everyday excellence. I would like to congratulate all of the winners and finalists who offer inspiration to thousands of learners each year.”
Let’s work together to build back better
BIIAB is passionate about apprenticeships and the futures of apprentices. We offer several end-point assessments along with a wide variety of qualifications to help apprentices become confident and ready to work. Whether you’re a training provider, a further education college, or an employer, we can help apprenticeships to work for you. To find out more, get in touch with us via email or call 0115 854 1620.